THE HONORABLE NORMAN Y. MINETA
SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
UNITED STATES SENATE
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak about the lessons we have learned from the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).
Through this Committee’s leadership, and with the active participation of our state, local and private sector partners, the Department of Transportation has worked to realize the purposes and objectives of TEA-21. I would like to commend the Committee for continuing its leadership by scheduling this series of hearings on the reauthorization of TEA-21.
We are looking forward to working with the members of this committee and with Congress in shaping proposals for the reauthorization of this legislation. Working together, we need to establish the base of resources available for this important legislation in order to meet the transportation challenges facing the nation.
Three decades ago, when I was Mayor of San Jose, California, I learned that the tool that made the most difference in my community was transportation. Nothing else had as great an impact on our economic development, growth patterns, and quality of life. What I have found in the years since is that this is true not just locally, but also nationally. A safe and efficient transportation system is essential to keeping people and goods moving and cities and communities prosperous.
As is true for many of you on this committee, I take great pride in the enactment of the predecessor of TEA-21, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), during my years in the House of Representatives. With that legislation we established new principles in the implementation of the nation’s surface transportation programs – building partnerships with local and state officials to advance the strategic goals for transportation capital investment. They are flexibility in the use of funds; a commitment to strengthening the intermodal connections of the nation’s transportation system; expanded investment in, and deployment of, new information technologies for transportation services; and a heightened sensitivity to the impacts which transportation has on our quality of life and on the shape and character of America’s communities.
TEA-21 built upon the programmatic initiatives contained in the earlier legislation and through its financial provisions, provided state and local governments and other transportation providers with greater certainty and predictability in transportation funding. It achieved this by reforming the treatment of the Highway Trust Fund to ensure that, for the first time, spending from the Highway Trust Fund for infrastructure improvements would be linked to tax revenue. The financial mechanisms of TEA-21 –firewalls, Revenue Aligned Budget Authority (RABA), and minimum guarantees – provided greater equity among States in Federal funding and record levels of transportation investment.
The programmatic and financial initiatives of these two historic surface transportation acts have provided us with a solid and balanced structure around which we can shape this reauthorization legislation.
While the legislation, which the Administration and Congress will work together to see enacted, should continue and build upon ISTEA and TEA-21, we have an opportunity and an obligation to do more than that. This is a time in the transportation sector of extraordinary challenge and opportunity. On September 11 a determined and remorseless enemy challenged one of America’s most cherished freedoms, the freedom of movement. The events of that day demonstrated how critical the nation’s transportation system is to the security of every American and to the nation’s economic well-being.
In shaping this surface transportation reauthorization bill, we must maximize the safety and security of all Americans, even as we enhance their mobility, reduce congestion, and grow the economy. These are not incompatible goals; indeed, the lessons of TEA-21 demonstrate that all of these values are appropriate goals of national transportation policy and that they reinforce each other: it is possible to have a transportation system which is safe and secure, efficient and productive.
In five principal areas TEA-21 has strengthened the nation’s transportation system: the predictability, equity and flexibility of funding; safety; mobility and system upgrading; the application of innovative technologies; and quality of life.
TEA-21 revolutionized transportation funding and provided record amounts of spending for transportation, a 40 percent increase over the period of ISTEA. The minimum guarantees and the Highway Trust Fund firewalls created confidence among grantees regarding program funding. Predictability is one of the most important aspects of program delivery for state and local programs. States and local communities have increased their funding levels to match the commitments made in TEA-21. Importantly, TEA-21’s minimum guarantees provided unprecedented equity between the States, ensuring that highway funds are distributed in the fairest manner to date.
Equally important is the funding flexibility, first allowed in ISTEA and continued in TEA-21. Flexible funding allows States and communities to tailor their transportation choices to meet their unique needs and enables state and local decision-makers to consider all transportation options and their impacts on traffic congestion, air pollution, urban sprawl, economic development, and quality of life.
TEA-21’s innovative loan and grant programs further augmented the highway and transit programs. The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) has provided almost $3.6 billion in federal credit assistance to eleven projects of national significance representing $15 billion in infrastructure investment. These loans, loan guarantees, and lines of credit for highway, transit and rail projects have encouraged private investment in strengthening transportation infrastructure.
The Department’s paramount concern is to assure the American public that the nation has the safest, most secure system possible as our transportation system works to meet the needs of the American economy. The United States has an enviable transportation safety record. However, the challenge of safety on the transportation system remains significant. While the number of highway fatalities in recent years has been relatively flat, despite significantly more vehicles on the nation’s roads, more than a quarter million people have been killed on America’s highways and roads in the past six years, 41,000 deaths each year. In addition, there are over three million injuries annually.
TEA-21 introduced new programs, greater flexibility and increased funding to meet this challenge. Increased TEA-21 funding enabled States to make needed safety improvements to the transportation infrastructure, and States may – and do – use their Surface Transportation Program (STP), Interstate Maintenance, and National Highway System (NHS) funds for safety improvements. Within the STP, funds are reserved under TEA-21 for highway and rail crossing improvements and hazard elimination. The FHWA works closely with States and others to improve our ability to analyze roadway safety challenges and to direct investments to specific projects and programs, which will deliver the most value in terms of lives saved and injuries minimized.
Since enactment of TEA-21, the Department of Transportation has awarded a total of $729 million in highway safety grants. TEA-21 also authorized $72 million annually for behavioral research to determine the causes of motor vehicle crashes, to identify target populations, to develop countermeasures, and to evaluate the effectiveness of programs in reducing traffic deaths and injuries. The Act also established several important, new, safety incentive grants. For example, between FY 1999 and FY 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded $210 million in seat belt incentive grants and over $113 million for innovative seat belt programs. Between June 1998 and June 2001, seat belt use had increased from 65 percent to 73 percent. Seat belt use, in total, saves an estimated 12,000 lives annually.
In motor carrier safety, TEA-21, along with the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, created new programs and tools for the Department and States to improve safety. TEA-21 increased flexibility for grantees, strengthened Federal and state enforcement capacity, and provided flexibility to promote innovative approaches to improving motor carrier safety. TEA-21 placed greater emphasis on targeting unsafe carriers and improving information systems, and increased funding for commercial driver license programs.
ISTEA and TEA-21 placed an unprecedented emphasis on developing a seamless, intermodal transportation system that links highways, rail, transit, ports and airports. The dramatically increased funding under TEA-21 also enhanced mobility by upgrading the condition of highways, particularly the National Highway System, and transit systems. As a direct result of the increased spending provided in TEA-21, overall highway system conditions – as measured by pavement condition, ride quality, alignment adequacy, bridge ratings, and the condition of rail transit assets – have improved.
As you know, Federal highway funds are used for a variety of system improvement and congestion relief purposes, depending on the priority needs and goals of each state. In recent years, for example, approximately 50 percent of Federal funds were obligated for system upgrading purposes, including reconstruction, widening, restoration and rehabilitation, and resurfacing. These investments have led to a steady improvement in pavement condition: in 2000, 90.9 percent of travel on the NHS occurred on pavements rated acceptable or better.
Moreover, under TEA-21, States continued to reduce the number of bridges rated structurally deficient. In 2001 the percentage of deficient NHS bridges had been reduced to 21.2 percent. In FY 2001, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provided $3.5 billion in TEA-21 funding for approximately 3,000 bridge projects through the Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation program. Included in this program were seventeen major replacement or rehabilitation projects and three seismic retrofit bridge projects that received almost $88 million in funding.
TEA-21 established new programs that enabled improved connectivity across modes, particularly in the area of freight movements. The National Corridor Planning and Development/Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program (NCPD/CBI, also known as the Corridors and Borders Program) has funded numerous freight improvement projects as well as many economic development projects, pedestrian improvement projects, and multi-modal studies, while strengthening the focus on international corridors and gateways with America’s NAFTA trading partners. The Alameda Corridor Project used a mix of private funds and public programs to improve rail and highway access and to reduce traffic delays in the critically important area of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
As of 2001, the nation’s urban rail transit assets comprised 10,427 miles of track, 2,776 rail stations, and 1,310 maintenance facilities. Under TEA-21, the substantial investment in the nation’s transit systems has contributed to an improvement in the condition of transit assets and a resulting increase in transit ridership. Preliminary estimates indicate that public transit trips increased by 4.4 percent from 2000 to 2001 to 9.4 billion trips.
TEA-21 also authorized the Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) Program to address transportation gaps in the public transit system and to reduce barriers for those moving from welfare to work. This program has made transit services available to many who previously did not have access to adequate transportation and, thus, to jobs. As of FY 2000, the JARC program had made new transit service available at more than 16,000 job sites.
Under TEA-21, the Department of Transportation has made strides in research. Research programs include development and deployment of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), pavement improvement, congestion reduction, seismic hardening of highway infrastructure elements, strengthening of bridges, and new tunnel technology. The Highway Safety Research and Development program is the scientific underpinning for the Department's national leadership in highway safety programs, and includes behavioral research to reduce traffic deaths and injuries, crash avoidance research, roadway design and operational improvements, and vehicle safety performance standards. Rail related research and development has focused on the next generation of high speed rail equipment and train control, maglev systems, and innovative technologies to mitigate grade crossing hazards.
TEA-21 authorized a total of $603 million for ITS research for FY 1998 to 2003, and significant progress has been made in applying this technology to our surface transportation system. From 1997 to 2000, we have experienced a 37% increase in the number of freeway miles with real-time traffic data collection technologies, a 55% increase in the coverage of freeways by closed circuit television, a 35% increase in the number of buses equipped with automatic vehicle locations system, and an 83% increase in traveler information dissemination on our freeways. Through the Department’s Intelligent Vehicle Initiative, research on driver performance, crash avoidance and warning system performance, and motor vehicle safety performance standards offer the promise of future reductions in highway deaths and injuries.
TEA-21 has given States and communities across America additional tools and opportunities to enhance the environment and quality of life for their residents. It continued and increased funding for several programs originally authorized in ISTEA, broadened eligibility for others and established the new Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot program (TCSP).
The TCSP program was authorized for $120 million in funding under TEA-21 as a discretionary grant program to strengthen the linkages between transportation and land use. The grants have provided funding for planning and implementation as well as technical assistance and research to investigate and address the relationship between transportation, community and system preservation, and private sector-based initiatives.
The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program has focused on improving air quality. Under TEA-21, it provided more than $8 billion in funding for use by state and local partners to support traffic flow projects, cleaner fuels, improved transit services and bicycle and pedestrian programs that reduce congestion and emissions and improve the quality of life.
The National Scenic Byways program and the Transportation Enhancements program have helped States and communities improve the environment. Since the enactment of TEA-21, more than $1.4 billion in Transportation Enhancement funds have been obligated to local communities to implement community focused, non-motorized activities that enhance transportation. Many more activities have been programmed and are awaiting implementation.
TEA-21 directed us to streamline environmental reviews. This is a major priority for the Department in assisting States and communities build infrastructure more efficiently, while retaining important environmental protections that maintain our quality of life. Since the enactment of TEA-21 in 1998, streamlining of the planning and approval process for projects has taken root throughout the country: interagency personnel funding agreements that result in faster, concurrent reviews; a merged process for wetland permits with the Army Corps of Engineers; and delegated authority for historic resources. As a result of these actions, the mean time to process environmental documents for major highway projects has been cut by almost eight months, the median time has been cut by one year, and the Department is well positioned for significant future progress. While we have begun the job, more can be done.
Building on TEA-21
The Department of Transportation looks forward to working with both Houses of Congress, state and local officials, tribal governments, and stakeholders in shaping the surface transportation reauthorization legislation. The Department has established an intermodal process to develop surface transportation legislative proposals for reauthorization. A number of intermodal working groups have already identified key issues and programmatic options for consideration. In the next few months, the Department will work with stakeholders and Congressional committees in shaping the reauthorization legislation.
In that effort, the Department will be motivated by certain core principles and values:
· Assuring adequate and predictable funding for investment in the nation’s transportation system. This funding can contribute to the long term health of the economy and, by enhancing the mobility of people and goods, promote greater productivity and efficiency.
· Preserving funding flexibility to allow the broadest application of funds to transportation solutions, as identified by state and local governments.
· Building on the intermodal approaches of ISTEA and TEA-21.
· Expanding and improving innovative financing programs, in order to encourage greater private sector investment in the transportation system, and examining other means to augment existing trust funds and revenue streams.
· Emphasizing the security of the nation’s surface transportation system by providing the means and the mechanisms to perform risk assessment and analysis, incident identification, response, and, when necessary, evacuation.
· Strengthening the efficiency and integration of the nation’s system of goods movement by improving international gateways and points of intermodal connection.
· Making substantial improvements in the safety of the nation’s surface transportation system. It is not acceptable that the nation suffers 41,000 deaths and over 3 million injuries annually on the highway system.
· Simplifying Federal transportation programs and continuing efforts to streamline project approval and implementation.
· Developing the data and analyses critical to sound transportation decision making.
· Fostering “intelligent everything” in the development and deployment of technology, such as pavement monitoring, message systems, remote sensing, and toll collection.
· Focusing more on the management and performance of the system as a whole rather than on “inputs” or the functional components such as planning, development, construction, operation and maintenance themselves.
This is a moment of great opportunity. As was true when Congress considered the landmark ISTEA and TEA-21 legislation, we have an opportunity to create our own legacy and to serve the needs of the American people. I am confident that, working together, the Department and Congress can preserve, enhance and establish surface transportation programs which will provide not only for a safer and more secure system, but one which is more efficient and productive and enhances the quality of life. One answer to the events of September 11 is to strengthen, not diminish, the right of all Americans to mobility and to grow the economy. These goals should characterize our work on reauthorizing TEA-21.
Again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I look forward to responding to any questions you may have.